William Randolph Hearst was an interesting man. Being one of the richest men in the world at the turn of the 20th century, he was influential in many of the major political decisions of the time for better or worse. He is often remembered in a fairly negative light as the owner of Hearst Communications, the (at the time) nations largest media company. One part of his legacy that is often forgotten, was his love of history and his contribution to the historical arts. While researching that legacy, I found myself near an Ancient Monastery that he had had shipped to Miami and later was rebuilt, brick by brick.
The Monastery was originally built in 1133 in Sacramenia, near Segovia in northern Spain. In 1174, Bernard of Clairvaux was canonized and the Monastery was renamed in his honor. One of the most influential church leaders of his time, Cistercian monks occupied the Monastery for nearly 700 years. After a social revolution in the 1830’s, the Monastery’s Cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable.
Hearst comes into the story in 1925. He purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery’s outbuildings and had the structures dismantled stone by stone, bound with protective hay, packed in more than 11,000 wooden crates, numbered for identification and shipped to the United States. At the time though, Hearst was going through some financial troubles. Soon after the shipment arrived, the majority of his collection was sold at auction. The massive crates remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, for 26 years.
One year after Hearst’s’ death in 1952, the crates were found and sold to two entrepreneurs for use as a tourist attraction. It took 19 months and the equivalent of nearly $20 million dollars (in today’s currency) to put the Monastery back together. In 1953 Time magazine called it “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.”
The grounds are really a spectacular place to wander around for a couple of hours. Flowers bloom all around you as you are surrounded by an aura that has followed these bricks for centuries. Benches dot the grounds for you to stop for a moment and take a break. Ancient suits of armor and books are on display for you to enjoy and cats wander around freely. The ambience is truly something else. I almost feel like I have transported back in time.
Closest Supercharger Aventura FL 2.6 mi
19501 Biscayne Blvd
Ancient Spanish Monastery
16711 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach, FL 33160